Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle

Published: 1986

Genre: middle grade science fiction-ish

Length: 310 pages

Setting: Earth during the time of Noah

Interest: It’s the fourth and final book in the Time Quartet series (which starts with A Wrinkle in Time) I’ve been slowly reading to Mr. Curiosity as bedtime stories. Continue reading

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Published: 2008

Genre: fiction

Length: 549 pages

Setting: England and Australia, 1900-2005

Interest: It was a book my mother gave me after she read it. Continue reading


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Short Stories by Michael Hodges

Title: Fletcher’s Mountains

Published: August 2013 in Perihelion Science Fiction

Genre: post-apocalyptic short story

Length: 10 pages

Setting: the mountains, some time in the future

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Gas prices skyrocketed, which lead to a collapse of the world’s economies. Cities are no longer safe, so Fletcher is heading to his friend’s cabin in the mountains through the snow and cold. Even though his friend isn’t at the cabin, Fletcher is expected.

Final thoughts: The main plot of the story is basically a walk through the woods, but you can get a surprising amount of story as someone is walking and reminiscing. Not everything is explained (there’s possibly someone following him, and we don’t know where his friend went or when), but it’s still a satisfying story. Fletcher’s friend had planned for the end of the world, and Fletcher was lucky to have somewhere to go.

Title comes from: Apparently, there really is a Fletcher Mountain in Colorado, but this refers to the fact that Fletcher is heading to the mountains for a safe place to be while the world comes to an end.

illustration by Lisa Grabenstetter

illustration by Lisa Grabenstetter

Title: Hydra

Published: November 2013 in AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review

Genre: science fiction short fiction

Length: 4 pages

Setting: some time in the future

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: A Doctor has figured out how to extend human life. He realizes that extending human life will lead to the destruction of natural habitats and wildlife, but he wants to prevent people from feeling the pain of losing parents to old age.

Final thoughts: This was interesting, because you saw the conflict of should I save humanity and doom nature? Should he offset the pain of losing someone to age and disease with the loss of open spaces and wildlife? The peregrine falcon that shows up on this windowsill at the end was a bit overkill, though.

Title comes from: The gene to extend life was found in a hydra.

Dec12Cover-200Title: Seven Fish for Sarah

Published: December 2012 in Penumbra eMag

Genre: post-apocalyptic short story

Length: 5 pages

Setting: a mountain village, some time in the future

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: A new insecticide unexpectedly also shortened human life spans and lead to problems in reproduction. Most of the human population died off, but those who survived are back to living off the land. The narrator is head of a little village in the woods, catching trout for the weekly feast.

Final thoughts: Hodges seems to have a theme in his stories – we would be better off with fewer people on this earth. Our technology seems to be leading to more and more people, but we can’t trust it not to fail spectacularly. Once it fails, most of humanity is doomed, but if you can get out in the country, life may be good.

Title comes from: The narrator was collecting seven trout for his wife and to bring to the feast that night.


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Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Published: 2012

Genre: YA post-apocalyptic fiction

Length: 525 pages

Setting: immediately following the events of Divergent, in a future Chicago

Interest: It’s the second book in the Divergent series. I enjoyed the first one (you can read my review here) so I had the next book on my reading list. When I was looking for audio books for an 11-hour car trip, this one came up in the library system as the right length. Continue reading

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A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Published: 1991

Genre: literary fiction

Length: 371 pages

Setting: a farm in Iowa, 1979

Font: Bembo

Interest: It’s a Pulitzer Prize winner

Summary: The Cook family has farmed the same land for four generations. The current patriarch has decided to retire, turn the farm into a corporation, and sign it over to his daughters. The change in ownership also brings about huge changes in the family dynamics and leads ultimately to a loss of the family land. Ginny, the oldest daughter, has always been the good daughter, but now she has an affair and ultimately walks out on her marriage. Rose, the middle child, decides now is the time to get back at her father for sexually molesting her and Ginny as children. The father becomes erratic and paranoid in his behavior and Carolyn, the youngest, takes his side in the arguments. By the end, the family’s stability and relationships are completely ruined.

Final thoughts: Smiley draws you right into the world of the Cook family. What looked like a perfect farm family – lots of land, successful harvests, multiple generations working together – turns out to be anything but. The father ruled the roost, and as long as he was terrorizing everyone into doing what he wanted, the family just slid along as it always had. As soon as he stepped down, all the problems surfaced, and what a lot of problems there were – sexual abuse, suicide, infidelity. Apparently, the book was made into a movie as well.

Title comes from: The size of the Cook farm.

Awards won: National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991, Pulitzer Prize in 1992

Reading challenges fulfilled: 33/100 in my Finally to 100 Challenge, 8/12 in my Award Winning Challenge

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Q&A by Vikas Swarup

Published: 2005, reprinted as Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 in the U.S.

Genre: fiction

Length: 318 pages

Setting: India, present day

Interest: I was looking for an audio book for an 11-hour car trip. This one caught my eye because I recognized the title from the movie. The back copy made it sound interesting, and it was the perfect length for my trip.

Summary: Ram Mohammad Thomas is a poor Indian Waiter who has just won the new Indian game show “Who Wants to Win a Billion?” The producer doesn’t believe Ram could have won without cheating, so Ram is arrested. A lawyer gets him out of jail and then listens to the stories which explain how Ram could answer each question. For most of the questions, one period of Ram’s life provided the answer. We learn his life story in a non-linear fashion as he talks about growing up with a Catholic priest and then an orphanage, working with an Australian diplomat and a Bollywood film star, and then as a bartender. Eventually, we find out Ram really went on the game show to kill the host who abused a prostitute Ram loves.

Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. I can see why it was made into a movie, because all of the flashbacks had such a cinematic aspect to them. The audio version was delightful to listen to since each character was voiced in its appropriate accent.

You basically get Ram’s life story, but in piece-meal form instead of from beginning to end. Ram’s life was so different from anything I’ve ever experienced because it was set in India. Half the fun of the story was trying to figure out where this particular episode fit among the stories. I was also shocked when I found out Ram had an ulterior motive for going on the quiz show. He didn’t actually know all the answers, since the host changed the second question when he learned Ram didn’t know the answer, but he was still lucky he could answer the rest form his life’s adventures.

Title comes from: The quiz show format for the original title. The fact that Ram came from the slums yet won the big prize provided the U.S. title.

Reading challenges fulfilled: none, since this was an audiobook (which is disappointing since I could have gotten a Q title out of it).

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image or subtitle to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!

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Short Stories by Ken Hinckley



Title: The Ostracons of Europa

Published: July 2013 in Nature

Genre: science fiction

Length: 4 pages

Setting: on Europa, in the future

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Ricardo is in a submersible on Europa when he comes across an alien on the ocean floor. The alien indicates to Ricardo that he should turn off the lights on the submersible, and Ricardo experiences the bioluminescence of life on Europa.

Final thoughts: I was disappointed with this story – it just ended. We were just getting into the interaction of Ricardo and the alien when the story ended. Plus, there was some random mention of Ricardo’s wife being dead, which didn’t really seem to add anything to the storyline. Ricardo seemed to feel he was in exile, and he felt the alien was as well? I didn’t get it.

Title comes from: The alien was an ostrocon and it was on Europa

FR-Timestreams-ebook-cover-e1375815894720Title: The Totem of Curtained Minds

Published: August 2013 in Fiction River: Time Streams

Genre: time travel

Length: 15 pages

Setting: a state penitentiary, present day

Interest: It was included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology

Summary: Gareth is in jail for life plus 20 years for killing a man during a robbery. He’s pretty much resigned to his fate in jail, when he realizes Old Man Soderstrom is raising giant Cecopria silk moths in a nearby cell. When Soderstrom is shanked for his cigarettes, Gareth takes on his project of raising moths. He uses the silk from pupa that don’t pupate to weave a cloth that concentrates light that allows someone inside the light to step outside of time. Gareth steps into the future several times.

Final thoughts: Again, I was disappointed with the ending. It’s an interesting thought that light is outside of time, so if you can step into the light, you can step outside of time. However, I wasn’t sold about the setting (in jail for life) or the reasons he kept stepping forward in time. Sure, the first time to get out of jail made sense, but why step forward again when he found someone to be with? And what was the deal with bringing the moths with him in time? Was it so he could always step forward in time if he wanted to?

Title comes from: Gareth felt like a curtain was lifted from his mind when he learned how to time travel and the silk moths were his totem.

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